HomeTechnologyEducationThe Latest Developments in Nuclear Fusion Technology

The Latest Developments in Nuclear Fusion Technology

Mass and Energy hold the whole universe together, and while energy is present in many forms, electric energy is the most artificially generated energy that unites our technological world. Scientists and engineers target to find the most efficient method of generating electricity while considering resources, cost, and climate change.

Albert Einstein’s famous formula, E=MC2, proves that at the loss of a specific mass, abundant energy gets released. That formula supports the immense energy released from Nuclear fusion technology which is another process to achieve even more energy from less amount of nuclear fuel.

Existing nuclear power technology

The existing version of nuclear technology works on the nuclear fission process where a heavy Uranium atom splits into two fission fragments whose combined mass is less than the original Uranium. That mass lost in the process is released into neutrons which hit other atoms, causing a chain reaction that leads to a lot of energy getting released in the process of nuclear fission in the form of heat.

That nuclear fission process of 1kg of Uranium releases immense energy more significant than the burning of 4,500 tons of high-grade coal which is why, even after a few nuclear reactor disasters, people are still so keen to work on the progress of nuclear technology.

The future of nuclear technology

Nuclear fusion technology allows two light atoms to merge into another heavy atom whose mass is less than the combined mass of both light atoms, releasing immense heat energy. There are many examples of creating a fusion reactor in the past, but the question of its commercial availability was tough to answer because of the cost needed for the process and its technical challenges, until now.

A team in China made a fusion reactor, EAST, that generated five times more heat than the sun in a controlled way for almost 17 and a half minutes with a cost of $1 trillion. Meanwhile, Korea’s fusion reactor KSTAR hit 100 million degrees for 30 seconds. France is also has a fusion reactor project that is in process. However, these all use a complex and expensive method of electromagnets and lasers to generate enormous heat that requires a lot of technological development to make them commercially viable.

It’s clear that the core issues of nuclear fusion technology that need to be solved are the duration, cost, and maintenance. The cost has been the crucial factor that brings doubt to diverting funds to fusion reactor development.

A UK-based company called First Light Fusion came up with an idea to build a nuclear fusion reactor that hits nuclear fuel pack with a projectile, having a speed 200 times more than that of sound, and releases enormous heat, which gets absorbed by lithium that transfers heat to water through the heat exchanger. The reactor will repeat the process of hitting the fuel pack with the projectile every 30 seconds, resulting in generating a pulse of energy that could generate 5800kWh of electric energy. They plan to put the first commercial nuclear fusion technology power plant within a budget of $1 billion, generating 150MW power.

Hope for generating clean power

Nuclear fusion technology is the future of power generation, where undisturbed power will be supplied with fewer environmental threats. As the world plans to go fossil fuel-free, nuclear technology will play an immense role in that development.

Today, it stands at 10% of total power generation, but this number has to reach more than 50% because other renewable sources are naturally dependent, and we don’t have enough batteries to store power from PV cells or wind turbines. For many years it either looked impossible or not commercially viable, but First Light Fusion’s idea may be the first step towards a more affordable source of clean energy.

Photo credits: The feature image has been taken by Hal Gatewood.
Sources: Xinhua / Phys.org

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Ahsan Ahmed
Ahsan Ahmed
Hello, This is Ahsan Ahmed. I am an Electrical Engineer and technology enthusiast who loves writing. You would see me posting on electric power-related stories.

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